Berkshire Eagle 03/10/2013 : Reviewed by Judith Lerner
“Horses in the Fog,” David Jaicks’ new book of five short stories, is inviting. You want to pick it up and look into it. Small, tastefully designed, illustrated with simple woodcuts of unspecific trees and roads, it is a chapbook. His folksy stories fit chapbook form, which are, historically, short, pocket-sized books for popular reading. Some of the stories in “Horses in the Fog” are contemporary stylized and mythic tales. Some seem inspired by real events.
His crisp, humorous physical descriptions of Ginny and Sid, the characters in his wistful, romantic title story “Horses in the Fog,” set up the two as if they were places rather than individuals.
Bodi, a rich young man featured in “The Money Tree,” with the help of his unnamed girlfriend, comes up with a satisfying, quirky way to deal with his finances.
“Clip Clop Little Shoes” gently shows how dogs have fun in the modern world.
“Intersection” displays protagonist Ron’s many immediate crossroads as he drives out in his truck one night shortly before his pregnant wife is to give birth to their baby.
The unnamed narrator of “Heroes” tells about his own life searches for inner growth as well as for a girlfriend and that of his hero, Ken, whom he meets at a residential therapeutic community.
In everyday language with no vulgarity in words, interactions or feelings, Jaicks writes in a compassionate, tender “guy” voice about kind thoughts, manly actions and pursuits including trucks, dogs, drag racing, drinking, bars, carpentry or woodworking. His women, however, have strength and at least as much character as his men.
Jaicks begins “Horses in the Fog” saying “Ginny had a smaller-framed body but she was a powerhouse of brown hair that seemed to drape and pile off her head in ringlets like an abundance of harvested grapes.”
Her looks and her character in a sentence.
He introduces Sid into the story and into Ginny’s life in one sentence as well.
“Ginny found a seat right off alongside a man who was a head taller than everyone else.”
He moves into “The Money Tree” with a side character.
“Lucy was no good at working. That fact had been proven. But what she did seem to have, which really was a talent that no one could deny, lived in a part of her body that would be a surprise to anyone, her nose.
Lucy had a marvelous ability to smell people who had money.”
Jaicks’ slightly rambling style also fits a chapbook’s historical intent. His characters are more archetypal than specific and detailed. Their actions and interactions seem symbolic of something just outside the actual story that the reader can feel, but not quite name. His plots are more interior journeys than active narratives.
Jaicks, who lives in Great Barrington, started out a poet and his stories are spare of words, as he, himself, said in a telephone interview.
He said these are nubs of stories he reduced to perhaps a 10th of their original length through long rewriting.
He published two books of his poetry, “River Rock Poems” and “Driving Home,”before putting out his short novel “Dog Park” in 2010. He said he hopes to amuse and entertain his readers.
Copyright © 2013 Berkshire Eagle 03/10/2013